How much of your collaborations are based on spontaneous improvisation? How much planning do you do separately or jointly on the compositions? MR:
"Spontaneous improvisation" as in "playing together" --- none at all. For Dervish
, we had actually prepared samples and also some musical ideas before meeting up at my studio in Innsbruck. I had sampled my touch guitar (single-note ambient pads sounds, straight and looped) and Ian turned them into software instruments that could be played with a keyboard and/or with from within the sequencing software. Ian also brought a sample library of the Hang Drum
into the mix. Once we met and came up with the concept for the record (each piece is based on one of the seven 'modes of unlimited transposition'), we dropped most (if not all) of the musical ideas we had developed at a distance and started from scratch. The process of composing the pieces was entirely improvised with equal input from both of us, and the aim was to always find common ground. AAJ:
What would you say is your ambient music benchmark? How do you measure your own work against it? MR:
I don't think I measure my own work against a specific "ambient music benchmark." There are general musical and sonic ideals I'm after nowadays, but some of David Sylvian
's and Brian Eno
's works were certainly very influential. By the way, Dervish
is not an ambient album at all, at least not in the traditional sense and from my point of view. AAJ:
You and Ian work jointly on the rhythmic structure of the pieces, correct? "Joker," for example, has a few Crimson-like odd-tempo elements, but it is played with a lighter touch. MR:
Generally, I suggested the rhythmic structures. There are usually two or three different cycles/time signatures running at the same time in each piece. AAJ:
Please tell me about the string arrangements you created on "Angst." How challenging was it for you to go back after the performance was already complete and fit a suitable accompaniment? MR:
The string arrangements were written and recorded last: The three-part guitar melody I had written in the studio in Innsbruck, and the string parts were overdubbed in order to create dense clusters within the octatonic scale on which the piece is based. It is supposed to sound "awkward and wrong." AAJ:
So is the Unwound
download actually the recordings you gave to Ian to start working with? MR:
is based on the soundscapes (i.e. guitar loops) I recorded in my studio whilst we were composing the pieces. It was Ian's idea to isolate the textural elements of the compositions (including some of the string quartet performances) and turn them into an ambient album. I think Unwound
came out great. We were even considering putting it out as a CD since we like it so much, but then decided for the download route. AAJ:
How did you meet 05ric and decide to do a project together? Are you familiar with his two recordings with Gavin Harrison? What appeals to you about those recordings that made you want to work with Ric? What do you think of the Extended Dynamic Range bass and how do you compare it to the touch guitar you use? Can you list any similarities/differences/approach/styles that you would like to detail? MR:
05ric has been a Tuner fan for a long time, and he kept asking me to work with him for at least three years before I gave in and finally sent him some material to work with. His original idea was to have a band with him, Gavin, Pat, and me. He had also invited Trey Gunn to contribute when we started working as a duo in 2009.
I did not totally get into the two albums Ric released with Gavin Harrison for these reasons: there's a sonic density that is hard on my ears (I'm very sensitive), and harmonic grounding was missing for me. So when Ric requested me to send him musical ideas, including "soundscapes" (by this I mean 'guitar-based loop compositions'), I felt confident that those would inform his compositional process in a positive way. Ric confirmed this in later discussions. In the end Ric played almost all the drums on the album (except for one loop from Gavin), too, and he's doing an amazing job. I'm very happy with how the blld material prima
mini-album turned out, and I actually listen to it for pleasure. We pronounce blld" as "build," but the name (for me) comes from the words "ballad" and "blood."
Ric's guitar/bass-playing comes from a completely different place than mine. For me playing is just a tool, but for Ric it's much more about personal expression. He's what people call a natural player, and he uses the Touch Guitar (he has also picked up the U8 as his instrument of choice, btw) as much as a conventional guitar and bass as he does as a tapping instrument. I'm more about refining the touch-style approach, and I practice the instrument more as an exercise in meditation rather than with musical aims in mind. That is, in my practice I work on details like for example specific movements of the fingers, and my approach more closely resembles something like a martial art. I don't have the urge to play music all the time. I enjoy the reduction to the basics and the kinesthetic aspect of working with the touch guitar. AAJ:
Please describe your long-standing working relationship/friendship with centrozoon and Tim Bowness. How did centrozoon get together, and why does it still remain an appealing concept for you? What recordings would you consider watershed and why? MR:
centrozoon was Bernhard Wöstheinrich's project, initially. I joined in the mid-nineties, at which point other remaining members left the band. Bernhard and I then worked on what became the core sound of centrozoon, which is based in experimental improvisation. In the early 2000s, we had a relatively short but exciting stint working with Tim Bowness, who joined us as singer and lyricist. The initial sessions with Tim were as experimental as the centrozoon duo, but in the production process the music got molded into a form of modern prog-electronica.
I just spoke with Tim the other day, and he suggested the rerelease of the albums we produced together, as well as the DVD of a live concert that was filmed in 2002. There is potential for a reunion with Tim in the future, but the next step for centrozoon is an album with new member Tobias Reber, a Swiss sound-artist. The centrozoon recording I consider watershed is definitely the cult of: bibbiboo
(Unsung, 2002) . It was recorded in the year 2000, but so far has not lost any of its freshness and uniqueness.AAJ:
Please describe your working relationship with Robert Rich. How did you first meet Robert and determine there was an interest in working together? What is it about his approach to ambient and space music that makes him a strong collaborator? Are you planning on working on any new projects?MR:
The collaboration with Robert came out of mutual respect for each other. I think it was Ian Boddy who put us in touch initially, or maybe a guy from one of the American labels I'm working with. Anyway, we met at Robert's place in Mountain View, California, and conceived, composed, and recorded the album Eleven Questions
(Unsung, 2007) in just six days. Robert is one of those true geniuses who are very good at almost everything. He's got an abundance of energy, and he is the kind of perfectionist that I enjoy working with. Nothing but the best is what he's after. He's also such a joy to be around.
We've actually worked on a couple of projects together after our collaboration album. There's an Estonian duo called UMA whose debut CD I produced. Robert was part of the team and mixed and mastered the album. Robert also mixed my work "Todmorden 513," which was a challenge because of the scale of the composition. Robert likes starting mixes with all the faders up, which was quite overwhelming with the seventy-plus tracks (most of which were sub-mixes already) of "Todmorden 513." It goes without saying that Robert tamed the beast and his mix is all and more than I had hoped for.